Angkor Wat -- an incredibly amazing place to visit

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

The best time to take pictures is either in the early morning, or early evening, when the light is at its best.  Otherwise, you have to make all kinds of adjustments with your camera, and that still won't always work.  Since going to the sites only in the early morning and early evening are not practical, some of the pictures may look washed out or overexposed because of the strong sun.  Then there is the issue of dealing with the crowds.   

When you get to Angkor Wat, the drill runs like this:
1.  If you are not part of an organized tour, then you can either hire a car/driver, tuk-tuk/driver, or a bicylcle to get around the sites, as they are far from one another.  (I have a tuk-tuk hired for several days via my hotel.)
2.  You can buy a one-day, three-day or week pass.  If you are caught without a pass, then you can expect stiff fines.  (My three-day pass costs $40.)
3.  When you enter the main area where the most popular temples are, you have to go through this one area so they can check you pass to ensure it is valid.
4.  Most importantly, when you buy your pass, they take your picture, then print it on your pass.  So if you think you can share a pass, think again, as they do check at the sites.
5.  The back side of the pass has the numbers of the month.  When you visit the first site for that day, they will punch your ticket on that day's number.  The good thing is that if you buy a three day pass, you can visit any three days, they don't have to be consecutive, as it works in other places. 
I'm impressed with the way they work the ticket control, good for them!

Since the tuk-tuk drivers are for only eight hours a day, and I want to see the sunset, I start my tour at 9.30 am, which has me giddy from the moment I wake up (early).  When the time arrives, my driver, who speaks excellent English, asks me what I want to see, I tell him, we look at the map, then he tells me in what order it is best to see them.  I agree, since he knows the sites well, and off we go.

First Stop: Angkor Wat.  When we drive toward the temple, I can't believe I am here.  I've heard so much, and have read even more, about this wonderful complex.  When Angkor Wat is in view, I can't wait to bolt out of my tuk-tuk.  (While the entire temple complex goes by the name Angkor Wat, Angkor Wat is really only one temple site, while all the others have their own names, but share the collective name.)  From the outside, it is just amazing.   

The temples that were built were originally done as tributes to the Hindu gods and religion.  To an extent, it is like being back in India.  The crowds are incredibly large, but I wait for them to filter out.  While I wait, I search for hidden treasures on the site in places that aren't visited by many tourists.  After about two hours, the place empties out, as there are very few of us, and we can see and enjoy the detail of the temple to a greater extreme...while we are also dying from the heat.  I am in heaven, I could easily spend the entire day here, as there is so much to see.  But my time has to be allocated to other sites, as I want to see everything.  

Second Stop: The south gate of Angkor Thom. Going through the gate, with the massive face staring out is thrilling.  I can't wait to cross over into the temple grounds, and am not disappointed as my tuk-tuk driver delivers me to it.  

Third Stop: Bayon.  This temple is best known for having faces on all its towers.  It is said that there are 52 in all, each representing a major city in the kingdon.  While the faces get all the attention, the small carvings found in the complex are just as amazing.

Fourth Stop: Bapuon.  There is a trek that everyone does to get from one side of Angkor Thom to the other, and this is part of the stop.

Fifth Stop: Phimeanakas and the Royal Palace

Sixth Stop: Terrace fo the Elephants

Seventh Stop: Terrace fo the Leper King

Eighth Stop: Back to Angkor Wat for the view of the sunset that never happened.  Instead, it went from light to dark, probably because of the time of year. 

I have to give a shout-out to a certain person for recommending me to buy "Ancient Angkor" (Freeman and Jacques), which is the definitive book on all the sites.  This book was incredible.  If you go to Angkor Wat, take a copy.  I bought mine off for about $12, but you can also buy a pirated copy at the site for $1.  I preferred to buy a legitimate copy so that the authors get their royalty, they did an amazing job on documenting the history and details of each site.  


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